Maple Ridge News: Municipalities to look at living wage

March 4st, 2010 by Phil Malnychuk - Maple Ridge News

Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows soon could have their own versions of the living wage bylaw, adopted for the first time in Canada last week by New Westminster.

The bylaw, passed unanimously by New Westminster council, requires all workers, either those directly employed, or working for a company contracted out by the city, be paid $16.74 an hour.

The term “living wage” is used to describe the minimum hourly wage necessary for a family of four with two parents working full-time to meet the necessities of life. In Metro Vancouver, it is currently calculated to be $16.74 per hour.

That’s well above the $8 an hour minimum wage that’s been in place in B.C. for the past decade.

The topic is on its way to Maple Ridge’s social planning advisory committee, said Coun. Linda King, while Pitt Meadows Coun. Bruce Bell will raise it with his councillors.

Coun. Craig Speirs wants the item discussed.

“I intend to bring this up. I’m not sure how far it would go.

“I think we should be talking about what a living wage looks like. “It also needs a broader discussion, about a society that’s obsessed with the bottom line. He cited the ongoing labour dispute involving Extra Foods on Dewdney Trunk Road as an example.

“I think $16 for anybody who works for the District of Maple Ridge is not an onerous amount.”

Pitt Meadows Mayor Don MacLean was not keen on the idea.



“It is beyond our jurisdiction, so the short answer is probably not,” he said, adding that New Wesminster’s policy is more of a symbolic gesture.

“Pitt Meadows tends not to pass bylaws that are not enforceable. We have too many important things within our purview.”

The City of Pitt Meadows has a contract with Canadian Union of Public Employees, as does Maple Ridge that sees workers at the low-end of the pay scale get that same amount – $16.74 per hour – while workers at the highest end, such as planners make $39 per hour.

However, no city staff make $16.74.

Bell, a former union president, will be asking the city to consider a “living wage” policy.

“I will suggest it to council to see what they think of it.”

He added the minimum wage in B.C. is too low.

“That’s why you need these policies, so you can have a starting point from which to build on and stop employers from going under that amount,” he added.

If Maple Ridge did adopt such a policy, the impact would be greater in some areas than others.

The 200 full-time employees already all make more than $16 an hour, said administrator John Leeburn.

Entry-level clerks within municipal hall get paid $19.57 an hour, while cashiers at the leisure centre earn $18.79 an hour. The hourly rate for labourers with the district is $24.11.

One exception, though, are summer students who work in children’s recreational programs– they’re paid $11.67 an hour.

The others are the concession stands in leisure facilities, as well as the skate rentals at Planet Ice, which are operated by a private contractor, some grass-cutting contracts, and aerobic programs offered under contract.

Adopting such a policy could mean higher prices for those programs, said Leeburn. So while a higher wage would improve life for employees, it also could exclude lower income earners from participating in programs.

The new bylaw is similar to those taken up in more than 140 American cities after a recent campaign by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN).

The New Westminster chapter presented city hall with a 1,200-name petition of residents supporting the initiative.

B.C. currently has the lowest minimum wage in Canada.

It has been frozen since 2001, when the Liberal government kept a campaign promise by raising it to $8 an hour from $7.60 and then created a new lower minimum at $6 an hour wage for employees with less than 500 total hours of previous work experience.

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